Unplugged - Vermont Commons School Skip to main content


Late in the first summer after my first year as a head of school, I traveled with my family and my in-laws to a camp remote enough that we had no cell phone reception, no wifi or internet, no cable or antenna television, no radio reception.  It was one of those rare spots left these days where “getting away from it all” actually still means what it sounds like.  It was not a good time for me to be unreachable—the school was in the final weeks of a major renovation and construction project, and details aplenty needed attention immediately.  It was amazing.

Of course, in what’s become ubiquitous for us these days—the lesson that we’ve all learned and probably pass on and reinforce ourselves—is that it’s never a good time to be unreachable.  Untethered from availability.  Freed from expectation that you’ll get right back to someone, because they know you got the message, and you know they know.

But isn’t the end of the year a good time to take stock, to ask ourselves—on that very notion of reachability—what we’re reaching for, by being ever-reachable?  Or, more importantly, what we’re reaching for overall, in general, in living?  What is it we’re actually trying to get to, or get at?  2020 sure should be pushing us to ask these questions of ourselves, as should the light at the end of the tunnel that 2021 seems to be showing us.

I don’t think being hard-wired into technology all day would actually top anyone’s list, even those who built that tech for us all.  While we’re maximizing being plugged in in many of our lives during this pandemic, reaching for the time when we will reverse that, unplug from the cords and signals and reconnect with the actual and the real necessarily tops the list for the whole of 2021.

So I’m thinking of the next two weeks as a decent taste, a reminder of what we’ll—by necessity, intent, and choice—get back to over the coming twelve months.  Being online decreasingly and, instead, being mostly offline.  Turning screens off and turning pages instead.  Quit watching other people doing interesting things on Netflix and get back to doing so ourselves.  Making something with our whole hands, not just our finger-tips or thumbs.  Getting dirty, up to our elbows perhaps, with the world, the real actual world around us.  We’ve all been making do, and actually doing an incredible job;  but my hope is that by unplugging for this nice, long stretch, we’re able to wake up a bit, emerge from the fog these current times have shrouded us in and remember the before and the return to that 2021 is likely to be filled with.

May you and yours have a peaceful, safe, healthy break, and may 2021 indeed be brighter and live up to all your dreams and wishes.

Dexter P. Mahaffey, Ph.D.
Head of School

Scholarship. Community. Global Responsibility.

Students emerge from their time at Vermont Commons School intrinsically motivated to seek out their role for improving the world, with the skills and competencies to do so.